Information on Your Rights
A trial in municipal court is a fair, impartial and public trial as in any other court. Under Texas law, you may be brought to trial only after a sworn complaint is filed against you. A complaint is a document that charges you with the offense that you are alleged to have committed. You may be tried only for what is alleged in the complaint. You have the following rights in court:
- The right to have a notice of the complaint not later than the day before any proceedings
- The right to inspect the complaint before trial, and have it read to you at trial
- The right to have your case tried before a jury, if you so desire
- The right to hear all testimony introduced against you
- The right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against you
- The right to testify in your behalf
- The right not to testify, if you so desire. If you choose not to testify, your refusal to do so may not be held against you in determining your innocence or guilt
- You may call witnesses to testify in your behalf at trial, and have the court issue a subpoena (a court order) to any witness to ensure his or her appearance at trial. The request for a subpoena must be in writing, directed to the Clerk of the Court at least three weeks prior to your trial date, and you must give the name, current address, and telephone number of each witness that you want subpoenaed.
If you choose to have the case tried before a jury, you have the right to question jurors about their qualifications to hear your case. If you think that a juror will not be fair, impartial or unbiased, you may ask the judge for a challenge for cause to excuse the juror. The judge will decide whether to grant your request. In each jury trial, you are also permitted to strike three members of the jury panel for any reason you choose, except an illegal reason (such as based solely upon a person’s race or gender). This is referred to as a peremptory strike and each side has three peremptory strikes. Most jurors are selected from the first twelve members of the jury panel, as a municipal court jury is composed of six jurors.